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After all the broken promises, the crushed dreams, the lies, and ultimate betrayal, I leave behind a male who only sought to control me…change me…break me.
I come home to my pack, to the mountains, to Red Lodge, Montana.
I return to the two small females I’d left behind. The twins I have raised since they were babies and love as though they were my own flesh and blood.
We’re a family once more and I will never give them up. Not again.
It’s a promise I will never break.
Then the rogues come. The devastation they cause and what I did to stop them will be with me forever.
The pain, the loss, the need for revenge nearly overwhelms me.
In my darkest moment, a male appears out in the snow.
His fresh, earthy scent cuts through the cold and fills me with hope.
His strong arms enfold me, warming me down to my soul.
Seff Weylan – my sakana– the one male bound to my mind, body, and soul.
Will he stand beside me through everything to come?
Can we overcome our pasts and welcome a future together?
Will he embrace the sakana bond binding us with unwavering trust and unconditional love?
Will he accept the twins, take them as his own, and promise to protect them with his life, as I do?
Will he fight at my side to avenge the lives lost?
As my wolf sweeps through me, I embrace her as never before.
I surrender my humanity to the dark, untamed instincts I’ve buried so deep
even I don’t recognize who I am anymore.
For what I am about to do, a dangerous, wild animal is what I need to become.
Show no mercy. Kill on sight.
The twins’ round, shining eyes stared back at me. Their brown coats were a shadow in the forest.
“Run. Hide. We’ve practiced this.”
White clouds formed in front of their faces with each panting breath.
“I know you’re scared. Be strong. Be smart. Run to the tree and wait…wait…”
The words stuck in my throat. If those who attacked my pack were who I assumed they were…
Don’t even think it.
“Wait until it’s safe to come out.”
Nereida and Arteisma understood what to do. They might be young, but I’d taught them well. Dear ancient gods, I never dreamed they’d need it, but they were prepared.
“If I’m not back by sunrise, you know what to do. Where to go.”
Determination was set on Nereida’s face as she gave me a quick nod. She’d keep her sister safe.
Nereida had my courage. Arteisma had my heart.
They weren’t my blood, but I’d raised them, taught them, loved them, and deep down to my wolf’s soul, I wished they were mine.
One last hug and a whispered, “Be brave. Be silent.” Then, I let them go.
They disappeared into the forest, their shiny brown fur blending with the dark shadows cast by the snow-laden boughs.
Leaving the young to hide on their own went against every human instinct I had. But the motherly impulse to stay and protect couldn’t override the fierce female wolf inside me. Facing those who had attacked our pack was the last thing I wanted to do and the only thing I could do.
Now, I stood motionless for what seemed like forever, listening, waiting to hear the crack of twigs underfoot, the rustle of branches brushed by legs, hips, or shoulders. Muffled shots. A howl of pain. The wind had died down, leaving me to scent only what was near me—evergreen trees, decaying leaves, earth, snow, my own cold sweat.
The snow fell faster, thicker, quickly erasing the twins’ tiny paw prints.
We were alone. None of my pack-mates had followed. Whoever had attacked my pack hadn’t seen us escape. They weren’t tracking us.
Fat, icy flakes collected on my hair, my naked shoulders, and the back of my neck.
I whispered a prayer. “Gods protect them. Protect us.”
As my wolf swept through me, I embraced her as never before. I surrendered my humanity to the dark, untamed instincts I’d buried so deep even I didn’t recognize who I was anymore.
For what I was about to do, a dangerous, wild animal was what I needed to become.
Desarae Draydon was always "Des" but...not always "Desarae". When I started writing Seff's story back in 2013, his sakana's name came from a show my daughters were in love with at the time and I grew to love just as much later on - Supernatural. By the time I was ready to publish Cold Moon Redemption, Des' name had been fully adopted by the Supernatural shipping fandom so to avoid their wrath, I changed it.
And the twins? They were always there as well but, without names. They needed something beautifully unique. My youngest daughter supplied me with the first name and Nereida H., one of the contest winners in 2018, lent her name for the other twin.
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Yeah, I’ve done some stupid stuff.
My biggest mistake got me exiled, banished from my pack.
A dark stain I’ll live with the rest of my long, long life.
I was there in the beginning. I tracked the rogues. Warned my pack.
I should’ve caught their scent from miles away.
I’m a wolf. I can do that.
It’s a gift. And a curse.
I saved a life. Actually, two lives.
My transgressions, forgiven.
My exile ended.
Then, the rogues attacked.
I should’ve smelled them coming. I could’ve saved so many more lives.
But I failed.
Deep in my soul, I know forgiveness isn’t the only thing I need.
Though it’s freely given, I haven’t earned it.
Do I seek redemption? You betcha.
I’ll do whatever it takes.
I’m not worthy. At least, not yet.
But I’m working on it.
July ~ Bexar County, Texas
The truck’s bright, white LED headlamps illuminated the back-country road we’d been bouncing along for the last twenty minutes.
And, damn, we’d gone too far.
“Pull over,” I said, shaking my head.
Dain drove his truck over to the side of the dusty road. “Did you lose his scent?” Jessy asked as she handed me a jar of freshly ground coffee beans.
I took a big sniff to clean out the scents hammering my nose—wild scrub bushes gone dry in the summer heat, along with the stench of human litter—crushed beer cans, cheap whiskey bottles, and burnt cigarette butts.
“Not completely.” I twisted the cap onto the jar and handed it back to Jessy. “I think we passed it.”
We were way off the main highway in Bexar County, a little north of San Antonio. Nothing for miles but dirt and trees and scrub. It was a hell of a place to dump a body.
Dear ancient gods, let me find Blaze alive.
I’d made a promise. Alive…or not…whichever way I found my aunt Neeta’s sakana, the male was coming home with us.
I closed my eyes and inhaled one long, deep breath after another.
Focus. Find that male.
Prove I’m worthy.
I shut that last thought out. Regardless of whether I found Blaze, my uncle Gunner was not gonna let me come home until he was good and ready. I’d fucked up. Bad. The two people out here with me were the two I’d hurt the most. Why they’d volunteered for this duty, I didn’t know, but I was damn glad they were the ones with me. Dain Louvel had given me a pass, but Jessy, his sakana—she’d let me know how pissed she’d been the second I’d shown my face in Comfort again. I didn’t blame her. Throwing out a challenge at Dain right after he’d suffered a punishment doled out by the males of our pack was the most despicable, dishonorable thing I could’ve done in my entire life. And man, he’d kicked my ass and broken a few of my bones in the process.
I’d deserved it.
Seven months later, Jessy held on to that anger like the challenge had happened just a few days ago.
I still felt bad about causing her so much grief.
Three years ago, Dain’s natural scent had intensified and taken on a floral undertone. I’d known then. He’d met the one female he’d shared an unbreakable bond of love and trust with—his sakana—Jessy. Why it had taken three years for those two to mate, I didn’t know. Last December was the first time I’d seen them together. Even though I’d known they were bonded and had caught the odor of aggression that had come off of Dain, something about Jessy’s scent had touched a dark part of my wolf's heart. She seemed to stir up those wild, hidden parts of me that had wanted to claim her as mine. I still didn’t have a clue why. Being around Jessy now, even in such close proximity, no longer stirred those possessive feelings.
Jessy bumped my arm. “Seff?”
“Yeah, we passed it. Turn around. I saw a road go off to the right a ways back.”
Dain nodded, turned the truck around, and drove back the way we came. A couple of miles along, we came to the road I’d seen before. Blaze’s scent wafted right into the cab.
“Turn here.” I pointed, the smell of blood hitting my nose. Dried blood. Not fresh. And something else. Something tangy, acrid. Unhealthy.
A few hundred yards down the road, a little silver four-door sat cockeyed off the side. Dain stopped the truck about twenty yards away. He took Jessy’s hand and kissed it.
“Jess, stay in the truck.”
“I can handle it.”
“I don’t want you to have to handle it. You’ve seen enough death, sweetheart.”
Jessy gave in with a nod. Dain grabbed a crowbar from behind his seat, and we sprinted. When we reached the car, Dain went left. I went right. After a quick interior search, we found nothing. We met up at the rear of the car and stood staring down at the trunk, getting ourselves ready for what we might find. “Is it him?”
I looked over at Dain. “Yeah.”
“Is he dead?”
Death had a specific odor and I wasn’t smelling it. Still, the only way to be sure was to open the trunk. I shrugged and nodded toward the crowbar. “Let’s do this.”
A strangled moan came from inside the trunk.
I jumped back a step. “Holy shit! He’s alive! Get it open!”
Dain shoved the crowbar in and with one push, the latch broke. The trunk popped open.
A male I’d never seen before, but recognized by the scent-trace he’d left in the hotel over in San Antonio, lay naked, tied, and gagged. His big Breeder’s body filled every inch of the little space. Dried blood covered his flesh, leaving clues to the many wounds he must have suffered. Being a Breeder, his body had healed up from whatever the hell Rule and his rogue bastard sons had done to him. That acrid stink covering his back and oozing from his pores? That was a deeper emotional injury I wasn’t sure he would recover from so quickly.
“Those fucking animals,” Jessy whispered at my side.
Dain stared at his sakana with a full-on WTF? expression. It softened the second he saw tears trailing down Jessy’s cheeks. She set down the gallon of water she’d carried from the truck and the three of us got to work slicing off the ropes and pulling away the gag.
Even though the sun had set hours ago, the day had been sizzling hot. The inside of that trunk still felt like an oven. After Blaze guzzled about half a gallon of water, Jessy and Dain ran back to the truck and grabbed two more gallons to rinse the blood, sweat, and other stuff off his body. Lucky for us, the rogues had thrown Blaze’s clothes in with him before breaking off the emergency release and locking him inside.
Through all the drinking and rinsing off, Blaze hadn’t said a word. He had given a few nods when asked a question, but otherwise kept silent. This male didn’t know us, but from what I smelled, he didn’t fear us either. He pulled on his pants then dried his face and hair with his shirt before wadding it up in a tight ball. The dude was as tall as Dain with the classic Breeder build. The muscles covering his upper body looked carved from stone. It would take a hell of a lot of males to take him down.
I scrubbed a hand across my forehead and through my long hair. “They hit you with one of those darts?”
He gave me a quick nod. His eyes were such a pale blue they looked like crystal-clear pools of water in the darkness. “Is Neeta safe?”
“Yes,” Jessy said as she put her hand on his forearm. “She’s at the tribunal. There’s at least thirteen Alphas and a few other Breeders. They’ll keep her safe. I sent a group text but I doubt anyone is looking at their phone.”
Another quick nod, then he said, “I need to get to her.”
“Dain, you got something to tow this car out with?” I nodded toward Blaze. “His blood is all over the inside of the trunk.” We couldn’t leave blood evidence lying around for humans to find.
“Yeah, I got a tow kit. Give me a hand.”
After Dain and I hooked up the car, we piled into Dain’s truck. Jessy and I took the backseats. Blaze sat up front.
Dain wasted no time winding through the backroads and speeding down the interstate toward Comfort. Halfway to the ranch, Blaze leaned his head back and heaved a deep, shuddering breath, like the realization we had rescued him had just sunk in.
“How did you find me all the way out in the middle of nowhere?”
“I tracked you from the hotel.”
He turned around, his eyes wet and shiny. “I owe you my life.” He reached around with his right hand.
I shook my head, trying to brush off his gratitude, but Jessy grabbed my arm and squeezed. The scent of her grateful tears tickled my nose as they sparkled in her amber eyes.
Blaze grasped my hand and held it like a lifeline, firm and steady. A silent agreement between two males—whatever you need, I’m there for you.
Something tightened in my chest.
He released me and turned back to the road. Jessy’s head hit my shoulder. Her silent tears soaked through my shirt.
Is this redemption? Forgiveness?
I sure hoped it was.
SPOILER ALERT ~ Cold Moon Redemption is a Sakana Series companion novella, of sorts, and NOT a stand-alone. If you haven't read the series you'll find Cold Moon Redemption is full of spoilers from Seff's point of view, plus additional scenes not included in the previous books. Through the first three books, Seff Weylan has always been there in the background. Now, it's his turn.
Yeah, I felt I needed to put that out there for those who might've thought they could read it and enjoy it all on its own. They would be lost.
Anyway, since this series is written from First Person Point of View, I tend to jot down scenes from different character's perspectives just to get inside their heads at the time. I had tons of notes and sketchy scenes with Seff. I had so many I seriously thought of doing his entire book from his POV but...as soon as I started writing it, I realized you wouldn't have met his sakana until halfway through the story. That just wouldn't do. I also didn't want to cut so much of his story out or use it as memories or, even just mention his past in long conversations. So, novella time!
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This connection—this ancient sakana bond—is just as irresistible as it is unbreakable.
When Sorin Campion shows up in Albuquerque for my pack’s Moon Dance celebration, our attraction is immediate, mutual, and undeniable.
One look. One touch. One kiss.
And my otherwise dull existence is forever changed.
I have no doubt he’s the one wolf I’m supposed to mate and share my long life with. I know it in my heart. I feel it in my soul. It’s the sakana bond. And I’m all in.
He, on the other hand, couldn’t get away from me fast enough.
But...it’s not me he’s running from.
Burned into his flesh is the heartbreaking reminder of a tragedy—the aftermath he has suffered through for decades.
With the next Moon Dance in Lake Crescent, my honor—my duty—will take me right into Sorin’s pack. Can he leave behind a past that haunts him and look to a future with me?
The nearly full moon reflected off the dark crimson puddle spreading slowly beneath the lifeless body lying on the concrete. Wolves of all colors and sizes stood on every interconnecting patio facing out toward the black-pine-studded pool area of the apartment complex.
Considered a solemn honor, we had all stood witness to the challenge ritual.
Brutus stared up at where I stood on my second-story balcony, his hands at his naked hips as he stood over the wolf’s dead body.
“You okay?” His voice, barely a whisper, easily heard as if he stood next to me.
His dark eyes squinted. He knew I’d lied.
I was so far from okay.
Brutus wasn’t only the head of security, he was also one of my best friends. He’d been there the night I’d witnessed a much more brutal challenge. He knew what I’d been through.
What I’d seen.
What I’d lost.
Like Brutus, I stood naked, my hands braced on the thick, wooden rails lining my balcony. Though I kept my eyes focused away from the blood, the smell drifted on the brisk night air as it mixed with the perfume of the pines, the aroma of excited wolves, and the smoky fragrance of the last of the season’s fire-roasted Hatch green chilies.
Foley had issued the challenge. Sky had no choice but to accept. Then the entire complex gathered to bear witness to a fight that lasted only minutes. It didn’t drag out. The two males hadn’t torn each other to pieces, hadn’t shredded fur and muscle into something unrecognizable. They hadn’t bled all over each other, turning their once-silky coats into a sticky, tangled mess.
This challenge was relatively clean and nothing like the challenge I'd witnessed as a child. This challenge had been quick and to the point, disturbing only two of the many poolside chairs from their positions, as if someone had merely scooted them across the cement to get closer to their neighbor.
Foley’s body lay bent in an awkward S-shape, a few feet from the pool’s edge. The bones of his back had snapped like brittle branches, echoing throughout the enclosed pool area like a shot from a gun. Foley remained in the form he’d died in, a brown and white wolf.
Sky, Luisa’s sakana, did what he’d needed to do—brought a swift and merciful end to the challenge.
As Brutus stood over Foley's twisted body, he shifted back to his massive, upright Breeder form as a warning to all to keep their distance. With the full moon almost upon us, the base, animal instinct to join the fight had many of the wolves pawing the ground in unspent frustration.
A piercing cry—half agony, half relief—spilled from Luisa’s throat as she shifted back to her human form. Sky shifted as well and pulled her in to his big body as she sobbed. Though Foley had been one of us, a member of our pack, a friend and a student living here in this secluded apartment complex, no one would blame Sky or Luisa for Foley’s challenge.
I couldn’t imagine what Luisa was going through, torn in two directions. She had loved Foley—more than anything—planned to mate with him, spend the rest of her life with him. The sakana bond wasn't something Sky and Luisa meant to happen. Once found, neither of them could resist the undeniable chemical and physical attraction.
To find your sakana, the one wolf who completed you in a way no other wolf ever could was rare, sudden, and a completely life-changing experience. Even though Foley had marked Luisa as his potential mate, his mark had disappeared the second she'd met Sky.
Still, finding one’s sakana should be a happy time, not one of blood and tears and death.
As Sky guided Luisa into her first-floor apartment, Brutus snarled a warning, ensuring the two lovers were left alone. Once they disappeared inside, Brutus and the other spectators shifted back to their human state. A few moved to help Brutus, carrying bed sheets to wrap Foley’s body with care and reverence.
I held my human form throughout the contest as my personal protest—my way of staying as detached as possible from what was playing out at the edge of the pool. The challenge I’d seen as a child was brutal and bloody and seemed to go on forever. In the end, both males died from the massive injuries they’d inflicted upon each other.
By the next morning, the female the males had fought over lost the will to live, and ended up on suicide watch, secluded from the pack for a few years. Those two deaths left behind family and friends who hid their grief while pretending to the human population that their loved ones had moved away. Other pack members took on the task of settling the two males’ estates, while quietly erasing all traces of their existence.
Though I’d buried them, my memories were as bright and clear as if that deadly challenge had taken place only yesterday.
I understood the reason behind the to-the-death law. Even though we’d taken on the rules of “human” society, behind closed doors and in our own environments, we were animals and lived by pack law. This particular law was in place to remind male wolves that, in this pack, challenges were serious. From the sporadic number of challenges issued over the years, the law had done well to discourage this ancient rite of possession.
In the end, it didn't matter who came out the victor and survived the terrible, vicious, bloody battle for dominance. The female had the right to choose, and there were times she chose not to live any longer.
Foley's best friend choked back tears as he pressed his phone to his ear, and spoke the words that no parent would ever wish to hear as Brutus lifted Foley's limp body and carried him beneath my balcony and out of sight. I understood, as we all did, that even with all its brutality and rituals, this was our way.
I stepped back inside my small apartment, grabbed my worn nightshirt from the floor where I’d dropped it, and slipped it over my head. My phone flashed on the coffee table next to my open laptop. There was a good chance the news of Foley’s death had spread all over the pack. Because I lived there, someone probably wanted a first-hand account of all the gory details.
If they were calling for details, whoever it was didn’t know me very well.
I grabbed my phone to see my sister’s auburn hair pop up, her text message below her picture.
Right of Refusal at noon. You coming?
Relieved this wasn’t a request for gory specifics, I tapped the keypad.
Wouldn’t miss it.
Flopping back onto my soft leather couch, I let the earthy scent soothe my nerves as I inhaled slow and deep. I stared at my laptop, the words of my latest research paper a watery blur of nonsense I wasn't in the mood to deal with. I clicked "Save" again, then dumped it into three different clouds for safekeeping before closing it out. There must have been at least 237 tabs open in my browser, each one having something worth using and citing, and I’d bookmarked each one.
My phone chirped with Sela’s response.
Have you seen him? Taber? He’s a freaking breeding GOD!
A tired laugh bubbled up out of me.
No. I’ve heard he’s the ROCK STAR of Breeders.
OMG! Yes! ROCK STAR=SEXY AS HELL! His brother and his son came along. Maybe we can kick everyone out after the rite and par-tay! You could finally lose your virginity!
I wasn’t in the mood to play this game…not tonight.
Not happening. Research paper due.
You need to cut loose. Have some fun. Get laid.
Sela must not have known what had happened here only minutes before. If she did, she wouldn't be joking around. I sighed and rubbed my tired eyes.
I didn’t want to be the one to lay the news of a pack death on her. Didn’t want her to go into her Moon Dance feeling as though the life she would conceive might be a replacement for the life lost in the challenge. This new, little life deserved a celebration of its own. Still, the entire pack would assemble with a sense of mourning cloaking their hearts.
I didn’t want Sela to feel as though she needed to comfort me. I knew she would. She was there for me before, when the nightmares seemed to go on forever. Sela was there so many times when I woke up, reaching for my father as he bled to death in front of my eyes. She was one of the people I could always count on to be there while my mother was off in seclusion.
My heart wrenched, and tears burned my eyes as the old memories flooded back in, where they hadn’t been in years.
I tapped out the bad news.
There was a challenge here tonight.
I waited for my message to sink in. No need to tell her a male had died. That was a given. Three minutes later, my phone chirped again.
I’m in the car. Be there in twenty.
I tapped out my thanks, set my phone aside, lay my head on the back of the couch, and let the tears come.
Though it's been through several name changes since I first started writing this back in 2011, Dance of the Hunter's Moon was originally supposed to be book 1 in a series I had no name for. After writing the entire story, I set it aside and went on to plot out and write 3 vampire stories I'm still working on.
But, while driving through Texas on the way to a 2 week beach vacation, (where I do a ton of writing), we passed through Comfort, where the idea for Dain and Jessy's book took root and, because I'm all about writing whatever comes to mind, I went for it. Even though I had already imagined my wolf world, I didn't hold to that and let the words just flow. Then, due to my hijack-master-beta, Janna, Shadow of the Summer Moon came up next.
By the time I got back to Sorin and Jules, my wolf world had evolved and I was forced to practically rewrite my entire story. Which was great, actually. I knew my characters on a deeper level, plus added a few new ones who hadn't played a part in their relationship before.
Along the way, my good friend, Laurie London. quizzed me about my story and then, asked me the ultimate question..."Is there a ??????"
(I won't tell because that's a spoiler!)
And, again, this story evolved in a way I had never dreamed of! So, off to rewrite again, and this... THIS... happened. And I couldn't be happier!
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Branded by my pack Alpha.
Betrayed by my mother.
Raised on lies and falsehoods.
The betrayal just as twisted and hideous as the deep scars I now carry.
My one chance for freedom is to run to the only other wolf who escaped the San Francisco pack.
I leave my past behind, hoping for protection, a new home, a new pack and a chance to live free. The last thing I ever dream of finding is a mate.
But falling into Gunner Bodolf’s arms is as simple as breathing in his irresistible scent. And once he kisses me, I can’t walk away.
I ran from hell and ended up in heaven. Unfortunately, the deadly danger I left behind tracks me across the country to the middle of nowhere, Texas.
My past will never let me go without a challenge, but I refuse to run ever again. To protect my new life, my new pack, my new mate, I will stand and fight.
“Who are you?”
The words came out tight and raspy. The stranger in the bathroom mirror stared back at me through wild, bloodshot eyes, a sad, hollow shadow of who I used to be.
What had been a shiny black sheet of silken hair falling softly past my waist was now ragged and clumpy, and looked as though I’d taken a straight-edged razor and carved out uneven chunks from the ends. My nails were broken, cracked, and torn. Every trace of pale pink nail polish scuffed away by the hundreds of miles of dirt and rocks I had traveled over to get here.
I traced my tongue along lips that were wind-chapped and split. Teeth that had ripped into fur and raw flesh were in sore need of a toothbrush, or blow torch, and a gallon of mouthwash.
My body ached in ways I never thought possible.
And I was hungry. So hungry. The few rabbits and squirrels I’d managed to hunt down and catch didn’t come close to filling the hole that seven days of hard running had left in my stomach.
My oddly two-toned blue eyes were the only feature about me that held any life—but what I saw in them frightened me.
Whoever I’d been before had disappeared like a shadow.
The years I’d spent holding a tight rein on the savage, primitive animal inside me had been for nothing.
I’d let it loose. I had run.
What I saw staring back at me now was feral. Untamed.
Not beaten. Not broken.
I glanced around the long, granite countertop, at the small cardboard box labeled Jess—bathroom. There were two other similarly labeled boxes stacked in the corner. I wasn’t sure if they had been packed to leave, or had been left there in the process of unpacking to stay. Makeup tubes and compacts lay scattered near the sink along with hair products, brushes, and a blow dryer.
It seemed strange to stand in the middle of such a normal place while my entire world fell apart.
The thumping bass from the speakers outside pounded against the house and drowned out the sounds of the wedding party, which, in itself, I found odd. A wedding? Our kind, married? Like humans?
How much of our world had Rule kept from his pack?
One thing I’d come to believe, that in keeping his pack like pampered pets on a tight-fisted leash, Rule had robbed us of our true nature. Everything I’d learned about who I truly was inside, behind my human mask, I had learned through trial and error. Over the last week, I’d learned how to move with stealth. How to track. How to kill. How to survive.
How to trust my instincts.
And so, I’d ended up in the middle of nowhere: Comfort, Texas.
While the wedding party went on outside, I had slipped into the house, taking the chance my unwashed odor would be lost or mingled in with the smell of the pack, of roasting meat over a smoky barbeque, over horses and cows and the fragrant, green brush.
Here, in this room, a scent I recognized from the past surrounded me, comforted me, helped me focus on my purpose—and not the stink of my own filthy body.
The familiar scent of fresh flowers and green fields belonged to Jessica Maccon.
Not that Jessica was my friend. I didn’t have friends. And the blame was all mine. Even though my mother had controlled so much of my life, I could’ve made the effort. I could’ve been…nice. Friendly. I never believed I needed friends before, especially a transplant female from Albuquerque who stayed only a couple of years and then left. She was an outsider. Not a true member of Rule’s pack. And that made her untrustworthy.
That is my mother talking.
Jessica was honest and honorable.
There was not one member of my own pack I could trust to help me do what I was about to do. I wouldn’t blame Jessica if she flat refused, or called for her pack Alpha to have me escorted off and banned from their territory.
But…that wasn’t Jessica’s way.
No matter how busy she was, she had always greeted everyone with a smile. Even me. Every day had seemed a fresh start to her. She seemed to have the ability to look past my awful behavior. I could only hope she would do so again.
She’d been kind to me. To everyone. Always.
And I’d been horrible to her. To everyone. Always.
Jessica wouldn’t turn me away without letting me explain. She’d consider it, weigh the pros and cons and even if the cons outweighed the pros, she’d offer some good, honest advice before sending me on my way.
Advice was the best I could hope for.
Hope. What a seriously foolish notion.
If this pack refused my plea for help, I’d slink away and find somewhere else to hide. But, without a friend inside the pack, finding even a small amount of protection would be difficult, if not impossible. The last thing I wanted was to become another Alpha’s property.
I focused once more on the unrecognizable female in the mirror. With too little sleep and too little to eat, the sunken cheeks and black rings around my eyes gave me an almost skeletal look. Muscles I never knew I possessed stretched thin over my bones. In seven days, I’d run off most of my curves. Except, of course, my breasts.
My ugly, scarred breasts.
I closed my eyes.
Breathe. Just breathe. You’re okay.
I understood what it meant to run. Going back would mean a death sentence.
I sent my fingertips over the shiny brands—the hideous proof of why I’d run, why I’d abandoned my pack—burned into my skin, a constant and terrible reminder of the male who’d tried to own me.
At least the physical pain had disappeared.
I sucked in a breath, opened my eyes, and looked at what my pack Alpha had done as he sought to possess my body.
Blood seemed to boil in my veins as tears burned my eyes.
Don’t cry. Get angry.
Footsteps came from outside the bedroom connected to the bathroom where I stood hidden. Jessica’s voice came with them.
“If I plan on dancing any more, I’ll have to get out of these shoes, too.”
Another female spoke. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather Dain come help you out of this dress? I’m thinking he’d really enjoy that.”
“So would I, but then we’d be missing our own party because you know as well as I do, we’d end up in here the rest of the night, banging like bunnies.”
Jessica laughed. It was sweet and husky and for some strange reason, tugged at my racing heart.
“Well, there is that.”
“I get to have him for the rest of my life so I’m pretty sure we can—” Jessica’s voice halted.
Apparently, she’d caught my scent.
I grabbed a towel from the stack behind me and wrapped it around my naked body. My heart pounded in my ears as I listened, and waited, and prayed.
Please remember me. Please remember me. Please. Please.
"While on a road trip from Southern California to Texas, about an hour northeast of San Antonio we passed through a little town called Comfort. I’d already been in the process of writing a wolf-shifter story, so naturally, I pictured an entire pack hiding in plain sight in the middle of this blink-and-miss it town. I spent the next 2 weeks plotting out a story that became the first book in the Sakana Series, Kiss of the Winter Moon. Where I had planned on another book taking second place, Shadow of the Summer Moon soon took its spot as the result of story hijacking by my beta reader, Janna. She’d dreamed Gunner Bodolf, the Comfort pack Alpha, met his sakana and her name was ‘Simone’. She gave me a few details and I took them, added a little over 126,000 other words and gave Gunner his happily ever after.”
I had a plan: Get out of San Francisco. Go home to Albuquerque. Start my new job.
Two years under the stifling San Francisco pack rules made the wolf inside of me long to break free. Run wild. Feel the red clay of New Mexico beneath my paws.
But, on my way home, I made a side trip to Comfort, Texas, where all of my best-laid plans took a sudden unexpected turn.
I hadn’t planned for Dain Louvel. Okay, so maybe I’d secretly hoped to see him, again, but I didn’t expect to be blindsided by the rush of feelings I had buried almost two years ago. I'd moved on. Well, sort of.
The problem is, I hadn’t planned on the sakana bond, that rare and precious bond few wolves ever experienced, to connect our minds, our bodies, and our souls. But it happened.
And all my plans, well...
I also hadn't planned on fighting for my life.
But, yeah, stuff happens in Comfort, Texas. I really should've planned better.
“Wanna run, baby girl?”
My dad might have thought it was a simple question. It wasn’t. At least not to me.
I yanked at the handle and smiled at the familiar creak as the old Chevy truck door swung open. The cold, wide-open Texas air struck me, along with the perfume of withered grass, dry earth, and horses. There were cattle out there as well, somewhere, roaming on the acres and acres of flat land and rolling hills. Above it all was a scent I had missed desperately for the last two years: clean and fresh and heavenly.
“Go for it.” My dad reached over the side of the truck bed and pulled out two of my many suitcases. “Long plane ride, long truck ride…a nice run will probably do you some good.”
I looked up at the big ranch house, shaded on one side by tall pines. Part of me was already in there—and in my mind’s eye, I wasn’t alone.
Weird, how that worked. How seeing him in the flesh only twice in my life had made such an undeniable impression. Oh, I’d gazed on him a lot more than twice, but those other times were in the one and only photograph I had, or vivid dreams, or any other time my mind had nowhere else to focus.
Go on in. Say “hey”. Try not to act so pathetically obsessed.
I jumped at my dad’s clipped tone. “What?”
A crease of confusion sat deep between golden eyes I’d been blessed to inherit. “What the hell did that pack do to you?”
Shocked, I stared at him. A cold sweat burst out over my skin. There was no way he could know what had happened to me. I hadn’t told anyone, not even my best friend, Jules.
“Nothing,” I choked out. “Why?”
“Never seen you work so hard to make up your mind.” He reached in the back of the truck and lifted out two more suitcases. “If you’re worrying about Maygan, don’t. She knew you were coming in late. I’ll let her know you needed a run. It’s not that big a deal, baby girl.” He grabbed a couple more suitcases and set them down next to the others. “You’re not scared, are you? Of running out in the dark? Ain’t nothing out there you can’t handle.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s not it.” The dark didn’t scare me. But to be surrounded by the clean, masculine scent I’d obsessed over for so long? Now that was scary. I’d set myself up for it, prepared for it. I could do it. I could be here, spend a nice relaxing two weeks, then move on with my new life plan.
“I can go with you.” He gave my shoulder a playful bump. “Or I’m sure Dain would be glad to—”
“Dad, no!” Out in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, with Dain, my obsession? Yeah…no. I kicked off my flats. “I’m okay, and yeah, I need a good run. I won’t be long.”
“Take as much time as you need.” He tucked a couple of my suitcases under his arms, grabbed the handles of two more, and left me standing there as he took the steps up onto the porch.
I stripped off my dress, bra, and panties. The cold air licked at my naked body, called to the wolf in me. Pushing off hard and shifting on the fly, I soared through the air. My paws hit the ground and I couldn’t run fast enough. But I needed to move a hell of a lot faster to outrun the desire to turn back, race into the house, and seek out what my heart and my body wanted more than anything else.
After two long years spent cooped up in a tiny apartment in San Francisco, it felt fantastic to stretch my legs.
I’d left my home in Albuquerque to find excitement, glamour, nightlife—because yeah, San Francisco. One week at my new job and anxiety had replaced excitement. Glamour? Somehow, I’d missed out on that. Nightlife? The City pack had their own private “nightlife” customs I, unfortunately, found myself tied up in, literally. Secret, forbidden customs I wasn’t allowed to talk about with anyone.
I was an outsider. No matter how nice I was, or how well I did my job, only a few of my new packmates seemed to accept me. Well, in their grudgingly standoffish way. Still, I didn’t belong there. Deep in my human heart and wolf soul, I belonged in the wide-open country, not restricted to my little apartment in a big, stinky city. So, I was going home. Back to Albuquerque.
I needed to break the news to my dad. Why I hadn’t told him during the ride back from the airport, I didn’t know. I’d hoped he would say something first—maybe ask me why I had packed my entire wardrobe into every suitcase I owned for a two-week vacation—but he hadn’t.
My dad wasn’t the sort of male who would scold me for giving up. That wasn’t who he was. He’d been glad I’d wanted to seek out an adventure. He’d been thrilled I wanted to break out on my own. And he’d be just as happy I’d tried, and determined it wasn’t the life for me.
But I’d failed. Failed.
And that wasn’t even the right word for what I’d done. If there existed one word to describe how nothing had turned out the way I planned, I wasn’t familiar with it, but that was the word.
The new-adventure experience wore off before the first full moon, a night I would’ve normally spent out dancing with my girlfriends, cutting loose, having a good time, but I’d ended up locked in my tiny apartment, pacing like a caged animal. I liked my job, but the odd, new pack and weird, oppressive rules were so not my style. That, and the fact I missed my family and friends like mad. And what was up with that strange, gaping hole in my heart, and the bizarre sensation that my soul had torn in two?
I’d spent too much time wasted in misery, apart from everyone and everything I loved. In trying to move on, I’d cut all ties to my old life, even with my life-long friends, thinking the sounds of their voices would weaken my resolve. Looking back, I don’t know how long I would have wallowed in my self-imposed “solitary-confinement”. My true strength came from the love of my family, my friends, and the pack I’d grown up in. All it took to change my mind was the sound of my oldest brother’s voice on the phone, reminding me just how much love I had missed out on.
Now, going home to Albuquerque was my new plan. With a new job. A new home. To family. To friends. To my pack. I ditched San Francisco. Packed everything I owned in a Pod and a bunch of mismatched suitcases, and jumped on a plane. All I needed was a two-week vacation over the Christmas holiday in the middle of Nowhere, Texas to relax, recharge, and reconnect.
I stretched my legs to their limit and ran flat-out. Ran until every muscle in my body screamed from overuse. Of all the things I’d longed for over the last two years, the freedom to run out in the open stayed right there at the top of my list. It wasn’t for the lack of wide-open spaces. Plenty of beautiful, wild forests and national parks lay north and south of the City, but pack law made them off limits. Forbidden. Craziest stinking rule I’d ever heard.
When my strength gave out and my claws lost their purchase in the hard ground, I skidded to a stop, flopped on my side, and breathed in the warm smell of the earth, the pungent scrub, the trees, and the night.
I rolled on my back, ground the soil, dead leaves, and twigs into my golden, coffee-colored fur as I twisted my spine from side to side. Sweet heavens, it felt fantastic to get good and dirty. As I stared up into the night sky, millions of stars seemed to welcome me home. I howled my greeting back to them. Damn, I’d missed those little sparkling specks of light.
The fresh air smelled clean and sweet. Like home. Not of the ocean or fish or seaweed or the thousands of other odors my sensitive nose picked up. Still, the fragrant scent of soil, the aromatic scrub and dry, brown winter grass reminded me of the other reason my adventure had failed.
The most important reason.
My dad had mated his mom and stuck Dain with a label—step-brother—though I never thought of him in that sense.
And I thought about him a lot.
Every damn day.
For two years.
Perhaps, when I saw him again, the overwhelming need to be near him, to touch him, to taste his scent on my tongue, to feel the warmth of his skin, will have faded. If not, then I’d deal with it, stick to my plan, and move on.
I rolled and stood up on shaky legs. Sniffed the cold air to find my way, found the thread…his scent…and let my nose lead me back to where I wanted to be.
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